Monthly discussion: Making connections

This month’s discussion topic comes to us as a guest post from Sally Pewhairangi, one of our ILN participants from New Zealand. Sally blogs at Finding Heroes and you can find her on twitter as well.

Sally’s post about the Maori world view ponders the nature of the connections we make, both in person and using other forms of communication. Given that our pilot program is at the half way stage, we thought it would be interesting to put Sally’s thoughts out there as a good opportunity to reflect on participant communication within the ILN, both its strengths and its limitations. Have a read of Sally’s post and then let us know what limitations you have found and what strategies or opportunities you have found to mitigate them. As always, discussion is welcome in the comments, or on twitter using the hashtag #interlibnet.

Māori world view: an introduction

If I was introducing myself to a predominantly Māori audience, it would be customary for each person to say a mihimihi or introduction; to state their credentials if you like from a genealogical perspective. Telling others who your ancestors are and where you call home are powerful indicators of your place in the world. It entwines you to the land and all its richness. It weaves connections with others so that you are never truly alone, no matter how much you may wish for it!

In a modern European context it is customary for introductions to include your name and where you work, or your job title. Independent individuals are valued; people who can make their way in the world by their own devices; people who are capable of creating their own wealth and caring for themselves. Education, qualifications and a competitive nature is also important if you want to do well, especially today, when employment is tight.

These are two different world views.

A couple of years ago, I participated in a discussion on LinkedIn which reinforced how different my world view is. The discussion was about how your email style influences how your messages are perceived. We discussed its importance as a first point of contact and the need to make an immediate connection, to create a rapport, and continue meaningful conversations. However what struck me was that using email as the only source of communication was the norm for most people participating in this discussion. And that, in my opinion is where my Māori world view differs.

Making connections, creating rapport and having meaningful conversations requires more than email. Meeting face-to-face is such a core element of who I am that it seems unusual when others say they haven’t got time, or it’s not possible in today’s global world. And when, not so long ago, I recently posted an update on my LinkedIn profile saying that I had met face-to-face with 62% of my 700+ connections. I received a number of comments asking me how I managed to fit it all in. I don’t fit it in, it’s what I do.

Have you ever asked someone where they’re from, what school they went to, or who their parents are via email? How else would I know that an award-winning businessman spent his summer holidays in my home town, or that the general manager of a recruitment company prefers his seafood straight from the sea to the BBQ, just like me, or that a marketing consultant and I share a similar love of cooking, when we discussed whether her upcoming trip to Britain should include a visit to River Cottage or The Fat Duck. These conversations don’t naturally occur during email exchanges. Email communicates information; a face-to-face conversation embellishes that information with the rich tapestry of our lives.

People are more than just a job title or a box in an organisational chart. The Māori world view recognises this. People matter.

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 29 June 2011.

4 comments

  1. Kendall · · Reply

    I completely agree with Infoscienceaddict when she says that she cannot consider her e-pals as friends, more like acquaintances. I don’t know if you can truly know someone until you do meet them in person and make that personal connection. It is very nice to be given the opportunities to go to networking events and conferences in order to meet those people that you communicate with in your work and professional life but it is not always possible to attend these events. When working with suppliers in the library world I always feel more comfortable communicating with them over email once I have met them in person. I can’t pinpoint down exactly why but it is nice to be able to connect a face and a memory to the name I am talking to. It makes it feel like I am dealing more with a human contact than a company.

  2. I used to fool myself thinking that my e-mail contacts or social media network are really connected with me. I think that face-to-face relations enable a more sincere relation between two commuters. Face-to-face is more personal and although I may communicate regularly with someone using apps and technology, I’ll never be able to consider my e-pals as friends. Acquaintances maybe. But in order to call someone a friend, I need to know the sound of their laughter, the touch of their hand, the sound of their voice. I wish I could meet all the people I talk to or network with!
    It’s a great article and gave me a lot to think about.

  3. […] am responding to the monthly discussion by the International Librarian Network about making connections between people from different cultural and heritage […]

  4. Great post from Sally, very thought provoking.

    I’m a bit of a face-to-face person too, and I agree that it requires a lot more effort to build a relationship without the opportunity to meet face to face but I’ve been surprised by the different kinds of relationships I have been able to build in the online space.
    I think the real challenges are about time and space rather than necessarily technology as the distances (either temporal or spatial) can make it hard to build a rapport. Twitter has been wonderful for me in that regard, it never ceases to amaze me that I can be sitting on my couch at home late at night and be chatting to a colleague on their way to work on the other side of the world.

    Using a combination of tools including email but also more conversational tools like twitter I have built an online community that has much of the warmth of a ‘real-life’ community (I don’t want to imply that online isn’t real). But it’s always a thrill for me to be recognised in ‘real-life’ by someone (eg. at a conference) based on these online communications and to get the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.

    In Australia in the library Twitter circles from time to time someone organises a ‘tweet-up’ where people who know each other online come together to meet IRL (in real life) and these can be a wonderful way to help bridge that gap.

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